Monkey Swings at Box Office

By George, this monkey has legs! Universal’s well-reviewed adaptation of H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey Curious George book series took in an estimated $15.3 million at the U.S. box office this weekend. Directed by Matthew O’Callaghan (Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas), this 2D-animated underdog follows the misadventures of an inquisitive chimp who makes monkey trouble for his human pal, the Man in the Yellow Hat, voiced by comedy champ Will Ferrell. Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy, Dick Van Dyke, David Cross and Frank Welker also lend their voices to this family pic produced by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard, David Kirschner, Bonne Radford and Jon Shapiro. George had a per-theater average of $5,970 on 2,566 screens. Nielsen/EDI reports that 83% of the film’s audience were families with kids under 12.

Universal enlisted the talents of several animation studios, including the Disney Paris team (now called Neomis Animation), Project Firefly in Orlando, Fla., Yowza in Toronto, Fat Cat in Phoenix, Az., July Films in Simi Valley, Calif., Wang Film Prods. in Taipei, Ink and Paint in Manila and Warner Bros. Feature Animation in Sherman Oaks, Calif., in addition to Universal’s in-house team. PBS will offer a new animated series starring the mischievous monkey in the fall.

Another animated mammal was the star of the credit sequence in Sony/MGM’s The Pink Panther, which generated $21.7 million at the box office and was the weekend’s most-attended movie. Veteran animator Bob Kurtz created another memorable animated vignette for this new incarnation of the bumbling French inspector, which stars Steve Martin in the role made famous by the late Peter Sellers. New Line’s death thrill-ride Final Destination 3 took the number-two spot with a $20.1 million weekend gross. Meanwhile, the Weinstein Co.’s surprise CG hit Hoodwinked continues its successful run in theatres. Directed by Tony Leech and Cory and Todd Edwards, this funny take on the familiar fairy tale brought in another $2.5 million, which means the film has grossed $57.2 million in less than two months in U.S theatres. All of which is great news for the indie animators at Kanbar Entertainment.

Both Curious George and Hoodwinked will face some competition from Disney’s Eight Below, which arrives in theatres this Friday. Directed by Frank Marshall, this Antarctic dogs-in-jeopardy family pic features some stunning wildlife photography, eight wonderful canine stars and Paul Walker.